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Analyzing Product Development Task Networks to Examine Organizational Change

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3 Author(s)
Collins, S.T. ; Syst. Eng. Dept., Aero Engine Controls, Indianapolis, IN, USA ; Bradley, J.A. ; Yassine, A.A.

This paper uses network analysis (NA) to study task interactions in the product development process (PDP) at a small engineering company (Smallcomp). We examine Smallcomp's organizational changes by comparing its PDP network properties at two points in time. The analysis identifies patterns of centralization, role specialization, and formalized control. This validates themes from organizational behavior and quality management literature regarding how organizations learn from experience, grow in size, and control their process variation. It demonstrates several insights to manage the PDP as both a second (i.e., effectively executing) and third order (i.e., highlighting underlying premises and assumptions) form of organizational control. First, reducing variation in task outputs is an understandable approach to controlling a PDP. However, it is important to reduce variation in task inputs as well. Second, tasks have varying roles and burdens in terms of how they share information with other tasks in the PDP. Companies seeking to support multiple concurrent projects must align their organizational resources to the distribution of labor created by the information flow among PDP tasks. Finally, an NA metric called Simmelian ties can measure effective concurrency in a PDP by identifying both valuable and ineffective iteration among groups of tasks.

Published in:

Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:57 ,  Issue: 3 )